We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access .
In the Plex Audiobook

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

Regular Price:$29.95
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Audible Editor Reviews

Don't be evil. That's Google's official motto. But what's really going on behind that simple little search box? Wired's Steven Levy guides us through a history of the rise of the internet, the development of complicated search algorithms, and, in many ways, a who's who of Silicon Valley — all beautifully narrated by L.J. Ganser.

What started as two geeks obsessed with improving internet search engines rapidly ballooned into a company eager to gobble up other useful startups (Keyhole Inc., YouTube, Picassa) as well as larger, more obviously valuable companies (most notably the marketing goliath, DoubleClick). Google's strategy has also been a game-changer in regards to the way we use data and cloud computing. Thanks to its highly lucrative AdWords and AdSense programs, the company exploded the way people think about the internet and the way people think about making money on the internet.

In the Plex gives listeners a real idea of what it's like to exist within the company's quirky culture. And Ganser knows when to keep it serious, but that doesn't stop him from adding just the right amount of snark to the “like” and “um”-ridden quotations from various engineer types. This edition also includes a fascinating interview between the author and early hire Marissa Mayer, the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list.

Levy dedicates a large section of the book to Google's controversial actions in China, the ultimate test of the company's “don't be evil” philosophy. Here, In the Plex takes an unexpected turn from company profile to a technology coming-of-age story for notorious “founder kids” Larry Page and Sergey Brin. How does “don't be evil” play out in a real world that is sometimes, well, evil? Results are mixed.

In addition to China, Levy touches on some of Google's failures, flubs, and flops, like the company's book scanning project and its development of Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, he seems to miss the point when he makes excuses for their inability to compete in the social space. It seems particularly obvious why a corporation completely run by data-obsessed engineers would have trouble making inroads in the world of social media, which is by nature more organic and subtle.

From the early days as a gonzo-style startup to the massive corporate giant that has quickly integrated itself into almost everything we do, this is an essential history of Google. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes listeners inside Google headquarters - the Googleplex - to explain how Google works.

While they were still students at Stanford, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin revolutionized Internet search. They followed this brilliant innovation with another, as two of Google's earliest employees found a way to do what no one else had: make billions of dollars from Internet advertising. With this cash cow (until Google's IPO, nobody other than Google management had any idea how lucrative the company's ad business was), Google was able to expand dramatically and take on other transformative projects: more efficient data centers, open-source cell phones, free Internet video (YouTube), cloud computing, digitizing books, and much more.

The key to Google's success in all these businesses, Levy reveals, is its engineering mind-set and adoption of such Internet values as speed, openness, experimentation, and risk taking. After it's unapologetically elitist approach to hiring, Google pampers its engineers with free food and dry cleaning, on-site doctors and masseuses, and gives them all the resources they need to succeed. Even today, with a workforce of more than 23,000, Larry Page signs off on every hire.

But has Google lost its innovative edge? It stumbled badly in China. And now, with its newest initiative, social networking, Google is chasing a successful competitor for the first time. Some employees are leaving the company for smaller, nimbler start-ups. Can the company that famously decided not to be "evil" still compete?

No other book has turned Google inside out as Levy does with In the Plex.

This edition of In the Plex includes an exclusive interview with Google's Marissa Mayer, one of the company's earliest hires and most visible executives, as well as the youngest woman to ever make Fortune's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list. She provides a high-level insider's perspective on the company's life story, its unique hiring practices, its new social networking initiative, and more.

©2011 Steven Levy (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Thoroughly versed in technology reporting, Wired senior writer Levy deliberates at great length about online behemoth Google and creatively documents the company’s genesis from a 'feisty start-up to a market-dominating giant'.... Though the author offers plenty of well-known information, it’s his catbird-seat vantage point that really gets to the good stuff. Outstanding reportage delivered in the upbeat, informative fashion for which Levy is well known." (Kirkus Reviews)

"The book, a wide-ranging history of the company from start-up to behemoth, sheds light on the biggest threats Google faces today, from the Chinese government to Facebook and privacy critics." (The New York Times)

“With a commanding voice, L.J. Ganser narrates this history and exploration of Google….Ganser’s stern voice is clear and moves through the text with determination.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (4630 )
5 star
 (2280)
4 star
 (1696)
3 star
 (488)
2 star
 (109)
1 star
 (57)
Overall
4.3 (3613 )
5 star
 (1856)
4 star
 (1228)
3 star
 (405)
2 star
 (77)
1 star
 (47)
Story
4.3 (3604 )
5 star
 (1780)
4 star
 (1338)
3 star
 (380)
2 star
 (64)
1 star
 (42)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14
    Glenn Richmond Hill, ON, Canada 11-13-14 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    257
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    206
    69
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    146
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Audio delivers on its pubishers summary"

    Excellent audio that held my attention the whole way through. I liked that it was not a puff piece and got a true look from a business perspective at where Google started and what they have succeeded and failed at.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Dietrich 09-04-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    41
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Don't Be Evil*"
    If you could sum up In the Plex in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting, amazing and disturbing. It's great American entrepreneurial tale, but in the back of my mind I couldn't escape the realization that the core of their business is selling ads. Billions of dollars in ads, and said billions they spend like drunken sailors.


    What other book might you compare In the Plex to and why?

    Barbarians at the Gate, because that book features a similar value toward large sums of money and the desire to own everything.


    What three words best describe L. J. Ganser’s voice?

    Neutral, bland and unexciting. There were a few pronunciation curiosities... "DEC" is usually pronounced "Deck," and to the best of my knowledge, "Vista" in "Alta Vista" is not pronounced "Vee-stuh." Small quibbles, though.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    It's worse than you think.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoy Steven Levy's books. Hackers is one of my all-time favorites. BUT it's clear that the cost of the level of access to Google that Levy was granted came at a cost of objectivity. Still, it's an interesting story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
    Kazuhiko TUXEDO PARK, NY, United States 05-26-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
    227
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    461
    41
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    9
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The guys who helped shape the data-driven world"

    Since the advent of the Internet, it was probably a matter of time that the society became more data-driven. But the two founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, definitely pushed this process forward like no other people could. As mentioned in the book, this probably had to do with the fact that both guys happened to be educated in Montessori schools (which encourage students to question the authority and follow one's own quest) earlier in their lives. The book provides a fair assessment of how they evolved as Google became a big company, and yet they tried to retain their original goals. Google tends to be criticized for their invasion of privacies, and I admit that I also always felt nervous about what data they were collecting and how they were using them. But after listening to this book, at least I understand their original intentions and appreciate what they have done to a large extent. I thought the book was a bit too long (nearly 20 hours) - perhaps the author could have delivered the same information with a 2/3 of the length. The narrator was very good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida 11-23-13
    A. Yoshida 11-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1846
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    350
    183
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2089
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What would we do without Google?"

    This is great read on the history of Google, it's founders (Larry Page and Sergey Brin), and search technology. In the early days of the internet if you had typed in "newspaper," you would not have gotten "New York Times" or "LA Times" because they didn't have "newspaper" in its title. You had to know exactly what key words would generate the results you wanted. It's amazing to think how far search engines have come -- as you type, they predict what you want and populate key words for you. It is due to Google's extreme focus on technology and goals (speed, measurement, refinement, and openness). And there are many more amazing Google technologies that work seamlessly into our lives, which I have forgotten about -- Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Translate....

    There is a lot of reference to "Googley" people and culture and the company's motto of "don't be evil." I think some readers will find it as a bias towards Google. I think it simply describes a workforce obsessively dedicated to doing what they love. For example, many might argue that Google's entry into China was a major stumble and the book doesn't place much accountability on the executives of Google. I think it was daring that Google did that. Selling technology in China is a high-risk proposition. Corruption and copyright infringements turn many companies away from China. Google had to know failure was very likely. Google took a chance to do something for the people of China. Although they censored results as required by the Chinese government, the users were informed on the page whenever results were censored. It was a small step... but an important step to reflect the value of openness -- the Chinese people were told when they weren't getting everything they wanted to see because the government was censoring it.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13
    Nancy Waterloo, ON, Canada 07-13-13 Member Since 2014

    I love learning, teaching, and exploring!

    HELPFUL VOTES
    279
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    96
    41
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    21
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Google lover"

    I love Google and Google products so this book enjoyable listening for me. It was informative to learn about the ideas and people behind the products that I love to use, but also interesting to learn more about some of the controversial practices used by Google. Everything from hiring practices, to the concept of page rank, and the China decision was covered. It might come across as a little bit pro-Google to those who are not Google fans, but I didn't mind.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-18-13
    Eric Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-18-13 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    18
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Quite a Contrast to 'Jobs'"
    What did you love best about In the Plex?

    I found this book a very informative and educational narrative and history of Google, about which I knew little. I remember the old days of "Webcrawler" and "Excite" as primitive search-engines, and how Google emerged as the best and dominant player. The expansion of the company after that into translation, mapping, images, advertising, telephony, operating systems and Internet browsers was fascinating. Having listened to the very long book "Jobs" last year, elevating as a visionary and Captain of Industry a micro-manager who obsessed on the inside cases of his gadgets, and demeaned and humiliated his troops, and in some cases cheated them out of equity, the culture at Google couldn't be more different. It's collaborative, people are encouraged to innovate and march to their own drummer, and new thinking takes place continuously by very bright people. The author, a Wall Street Journal reporter, is slanted in favor of Google, but I learned a lot about the company and really enjoyed the book.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Plex?

    The dilemma Google faced when it decided to enter the Chinese market. Burdened by the company's slogan "Do Not Be Evil," it was confronted by government demands to censor its search results. As the price of doing business in China, and competing with Baidu, it capitulated. Google was excoriated for this in the press and in the halls of Congress. Later, after the Chinese government hacked into Google's email system, found communications among dissidents and arrested them, Google said "enough" and pulled out.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    "Don't Be Evil"


    Any additional comments?

    The book lags a bit at the very end.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    stpal001 10-21-12
    stpal001 10-21-12 Member Since 2016
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    228
    25
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    7
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Worth more than you think"

    I started this book only mildly interested and ended with an example of how to build a new world. I could have used a lot more detail on the technical aspects of this story: page rank, server clusters, etc.; and less of the internal politics and business models. But the message which was repeated throughout this story was "change the world for the better and let the algorithms do the heavy lifting". It is almost curious that such a bunch of technonerds could make such a profound humanitarian statement, but that is Steven Levy's genius for detail as much as anything purposely done of the principals in this story. Ganser did a superb narration job. If we are lucky this will be the first volume with another installment in 20 or so years. Spolier Alert: Paleonerds will really enjoy this tale. For all others, proceed with caution.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kevin United States 10-11-12
    Kevin United States 10-11-12 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    41
    12
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    4
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "The Definitive Book on Google"

    This book is way better than "What Would Google Do". I particularly like the sections that talked about Google's data centers: the machines they use, the cooling systems, the locations, etc. Techies and non-techies will get enjoyment out of this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12
    Gary Las Cruces, NM, United States 05-27-12 Member Since 2016

    l'enfer c'est les autres

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2725
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    763
    312
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    341
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Everything I knew about Google was wrong"

    Everything I thought I knew about Google was wrong. I have a whole new understanding and, yes, an appreciation for the success of Google. Google was much more than just a good search engine. They knew how to take that product and leverage it to make money. The author really lets you feel like your inside the company and understand how they succeeded. A very fun and eye opening read.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretel 03-19-12
    Gretel 03-19-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    9
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Google Puff Piece"
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    This is not all an objective treatment. However, even with the author's reverence for the


    Would you recommend In the Plex to your friends? Why or why not?

    Yes and no: it's competent but nearly hagiographic. VERY few opposing viewpoints. I would bet that Google traded access for guaranteed favorable treatment.


    What about L. J. Ganser’s performance did you like?

    Outstanding narration.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    The author would have been well-served to leave out the Obama-centric chapters near the end of the book. They add very little and sound too much like mainstream Obama puffery: according to Levy, the President's main problem is just being too darn rational.... Yeah, right.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Jameski
    UK
    12/5/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An excellent insight into the Google phenomenon."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    An excellent audio listen outlining the background and evolution of Google and its creators. The detail and experiences in the way that the book has been written by Steven Levy is superb, gaining exceptional access to Larry and Sergei as well as other key influential people with Google allows Levy to tell a factual and very interesting story that keeps you interested throughout. One of the best audio books I've listened to !!


    What did you like best about this story?

    The detailed factual content and the way its written giving background from inception to almost current day


    Which character – as performed by L. J. Ganser – was your favourite?

    no real character, just very well narrated


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    EDINBURGH, United Kingdom
    12/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Brilliant insight"

    Superb book, great insights into early as well as later Google. I couldn't imagine that there will be so much material to cover 20 hours worth of a book, but I have to say that there wasn't a section which I didn't find interesting. Very well researched and performed well as well.

    One small note is I have no idea what was going on with chapter numbers - was saying 'chapter 3' half the time, with 'chapter 2 or 4' mixed in randomly.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • James
    Woking, United Kingdom
    9/19/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Explains Google well"
    What made the experience of listening to In the Plex the most enjoyable?

    The content is very rich, all aspects of Google appear to be dealt with in logical ways, so that following the timelines and individual issues is not a problem.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The founders are really the main "characters" all the way through, and the book gives some insight into their personalities without a huge amount of access to them directly, just their company.


    If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The birth of a giant


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P
    Aberdeen, United Kingdom
    8/2/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A little boring"

    The first half of the book is interesting and kept me interested but the sections on china, google books were just lenghtly and boring with too much pointless detail.
    It does a good job on explaining how google was developped and how is essentially works. I would recommend this book to someone who really loves google products or wants to create a IT start-up.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Craig Beck
    United States
    6/24/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting in parts"

    One of those books that I am not enjoying enough to get excited about but not hating enough to delete. It's interesting in part but not enough to make up for the dullness of the subject.

    The narrator is also very cheesy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • chris
    Epsom, United Kingdom
    6/8/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Somehow left me flat ;-("

    Having been an avid fan of audio books and captivated recently by the Steve Jobs biography. This review of Google seem somewhat 'clinical'. It was fine, historically interesting, giving insight but ultimately it just seemed a serious of facts strung together in a less than captivating way which did not draw you in or make you really care what happended (even though we all know how well Google has done).

    I listened to it all but by halfway through the first half I was wishing it over but continued to the end.

    Not the strongest book I have heard by far and don't expect a light story, but if you want to know about google then the author had access to the heart of the business.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • David B
    London, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating account"

    Great insights into the amazing ascent of Google from an author who clearly has had some high level access.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Colin
    Shepperton, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "OK-but don't get too ecited"

    This book is an OK look at Google and the rise of the search engine as it grows from early concept to where it is now and as it looks to enter new markets. However, there is nothing particularly new in the book over what you hear on the media regularly. Amd I have to say, although this may jut be me, I do find the narrators voice and intonation quite irritating!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe
    Kilkenny, Ireland
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "Fascinating, super read."

    The last time I read a Steven Levy book was back 2001, the fascinating 'Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything'. Levy takes on a similar subject here, examining the birth and development of Google. I have to say, I thought this was an excellent read, with a thorough and comprehensive story and a clear theme as Levy focuses on the culture which the founders instilled into their organisation. The chapters on the early days were fascinating, and insights into Google's technology eye-opening, and the book left me with a whole new perspective on Google. If you enjoy technology books you'll love this!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Judy Corstjens
    3/18/13
    Overall
    "Thorough job"

    Very complete history of an amazing company. I found the book more worthy than fun.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.